I write books. I like to think they’re important. At least they are to me. But recently I was asked to speak about a different kind of book. And the following is what I came up with:
I was asked “what does it mean to you to ask to be written in the book of life.” My people have our high holidays once a year to celebrate our new year, atone for our sins (who doesn’t have any of these?), and ask God to write us in the Book of Life (so we can continue to live another year).
I’ll answer with a story. A childhood friend called me from California last week. She said, “Cary, you been working hard and volunteering your whole life to take care of your family and others in the community. It’s time for you to stop working and volunteering and enjoy the next half of your life. I was never that great in math, so I asked her, “Debbie, we’re 56, I’m pretty sure we don’t have half a life left. May a ¼ or 3/8 if we’re lucky.” She laughed and agreed.
But she was right, I had worked my whole life to support my family. And I do volunteer quite a bit. I volunteer because I love it, and since my kids have left the house, it keeps me busy instead of doing things that would probably get me into trouble. To me, volunteering is not work. I call it soul healing.
So, what does it mean to ask that I be written in the book of life? I have to be honest, I ask God for a lot of things. I always ask God to please write my family and friends in the book of life. And even my dogs. Because dogs are people, too. Sometimes I also ask, “God, I know how busy you are, but if you have any spare time, would you mind healing people I know who have health issues? If you have a free moment. Thanks.”
But I never ask God to write me in the book of life. Never once. I just never think about it. And amazingly, I’m still here. Hopefully to enjoy the next ¼ or 3/8 of my life, anyway. So, why is my name written in the book of life? My only explanation is that while I’m asking God to write everyone I know in the book of life, others, perhaps those I’ve helped or touched in some way, have asked God to write me in the book of life. Surely he’s heard them. To me, it’s even more fulfilling to be written in the book of life when someone else makes the request. Please don’t misunderstand, there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for yourself. But when someone else asks in your behalf, you know you’ve done something right.
So, please help those who need it. Extend your hand and your heart. Heal your soul. It’s free, and I just bet while you’re asking for someone else to be written in the book of life, someone will ask God to write your name in the book of life. Maybe someone sitting right next to you. Maybe someone who has never met you personally. I know this to be true.
To quote the words many attribute to the German-American author Charles Bukowski: Find what you love and let it kill you. Let it drain you of your all. Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down into eventual nothingness. Let it kill you and let it devour your remains. For all things will kill you, both slowly and fastly, but it’s much better to be killed by a lover.